Friday, September 11, 2009

One of my favorites...

I would think that most of us have a few favorite picture books, the ones we grew up with. I certainly do. With some, I can still hear my grandmother's voice and her quiet inflections as she read the stories to me.

One such is the Five Chinese Brothers, by Claire Hutchet Bishop. I was excited to find this book still in print a couple of years ago. The story is about 5 Chinese brothers who look exactly alike. Each of them has a special power or talent. One can "swallow the sea" while the other "could not be burned."

The illustrations are very simple. The illustrator is Kurt Wiese who uses black line and one or two colors very effectively.

Another classic, for me, is Little Sambo (first called Little Black Sambo). This book has since been redone a number of times to correct its racial overtones. But I thoroughly enjoyed the book as a child. Little Sambo escapes being eaten by 3 ferocious (yet prideful) tigers who take his new clothes and then fight over who is the best looking tiger in the jungle.

Magic occurs when the tigers run around a tree so fast that they turn into butter. That night, Little Sambo and his family feast on pancakes made from the tiger butter. What a fantastic ending!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Do I need an editor?

This question came up for me when I made the decision to self-publish. The short answer is yes! absolutely.

Of course, we all look for ways to minimize our expenses and get our book into the market place as quickly as possible. But having a professional editor look over your work is NOT the place to cut corners. The book market is very competitive. And although everyone says you can't judge a book by its cover, everyone does it. And then they judge it by the words, and the design, and whether it has an ISBN, etc. I recently had a bookstore salesperson say that my book did not "look self-published..."


However...that simply tells me that if I were only competing with self-published books I would be ahead of the competition is some respects, but I am not. I am competing with every picture book on the market. And the vast majority have been rigorously edited by publishing houses before they are printed.

As you begin your search for an editor, look for someone with specific qualifications in children's books. I found a number of "copy" editors who could look at the book with a very quick turn around for a very low fee. This group would do a fine job if I was simply looking for someone to check for spelling mistakes and correct grammar.

What I needed was someone to look carefully at the storyline, meter, and best use of words. And then analyze how the text related to the artwork. I needed a fresh perspective on the art and someone who could look at continuity of character, balance, composition, text placement, etc.

I found two editors that I feel would do a great job with your book,Linda Zuckerman and Nora Cohen. I recommend both of them. They both have long waiting lists, but again this is not a step you can afford to skip. Polish up your book the best you can, send it to everyone you know for their feedback, and then find a professional editor like Nora or Linda.

Be prepared to spend between $300-$700 for professional children's book editing.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The artist statement...

Many applications I have completed for art school, graduate school, and teaching positions, have required an artist statement. This is one exercise (left over from academia or the fine art world, I am not sure which) that I find somewhat...uh...weird, for a commercial illustrator.

Nevertheless, I have written my fair share of artist statements. They have ranged from very serious-sounding and abstract to almost silly in their amount of art-speak. I have read a bunch too and often find them difficult to connect to the art I am looking at.

However, I do find it a helpful introspective exercise that forces you to take loose creative concepts and describe them with definitive words. If...I approach it in a more pragmatic way,(as I did the last time) it might help others discover something about my process as an image maker. The following statement seems to work pretty well for me right now. I am sure it will change as I change, but thought you might enjoy reading it.

Artist Statement For me, illustration is the process of giving form to my imagination. I enjoy sketching until I create what matches it the best. Or until the drawing itself surprises me and I see within it what I could not have contrived. My illustrations communicate the unwritten emotions of a story and create synergy between text and image. They add meaning to the text and bring the characters to life.

I enjoy the creative process and there is great value in it for me personally, but my purpose is to engage my viewer and inspire their imagination. It is very important for me that others understand my work and gain some benefit from it. I can do that with picture books. The stories are simple, sometimes profound. They captivate your imagination and engage your mind.

Formally, I like a full range of values, good color, and interesting light. The marks have to be fresh and confident. If done right, they will be an abstract collection of honest brushstrokes on one hand, and the seamless depiction of a convincing reality on the other.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

See my portfolio!

As with anything, its a good idea to check your sources when you are offered information. With that in mind, the first few posts will be about me and my background as a creative professional. Like most, I grew up drawing pictures and coloring pages in coloring books. But, unlike most, I had a natural inclination toward drawing and I stuck with it. I got very serious about it in the 9th grade and spent a great deal of time drawing photographs out of National Geographic.

I did Advanced placement Art my senior year and earned some college credit. It still took me a good three years to finished my associates degree at a small private college in Rexburg, Idaho. I guess I was interested in getting an education, not a degree. Many of my teachers had attended a school in California called Art Center College of Design, so that was my next move. With our one-year old in tow, we moved to Glendale, California. I graduated valedictorian of my class in Aug. of 2003.

We then moved to Logan, Utah where I began freelancing as an artist/illustrator. I worked for friends and family and national children's magazines. I found an artist representative who promoted my work and sent me jobs for educational publishers such as McGraw Hill and Scholastic. The goal was to work for a while and then attend graduate school as preparation to teach art at the university level. In 2006 I began my graduate studies at Utah State University and graduated in the spring of 2009.

So that is the paper trail...the learning has been incredible!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Gotta start somewhere...

Hello, and welcome to the Art of the Picture Book! This summer has been very busy with the launch of my new picture book, Woodchuck Chuck. So I haven't had a ton of time to blog about it all. I think I keep waiting for my life to slow down - but we all know how that goes. So, while I should be getting ready to head to Salt Lake for an interview with Studio 5, I decided to start this blog. I hope you will find it interesting and helpful.

I know many people who have an idea for a picture book and wonder about how to make it a reality. I grew up loving picture books and now I am creating them. The life of an artist/illustrator is not as cut and dried as some professions. My wife teases me that I should've become a dentist - (some may disagree, but she says when you get out of dental school, you are a dentist)

We discovered that when you come out art school, you sort of fish around, discover yourself, do what pays, do stuff that doesn't pay, and live with a lot of uncertainty about your career. I am still on that journey, (which is much more interesting than cleaning teeth) but feel like I have come to an exciting point in my career. Thank you for joining me!